LAMB #2 available!

This issue of LAMB attempts to weave ideas about collaboration, relational and social practices and localism together in both art and non-art settings.

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GRAM IN NYTIMES, MICHIGAN FREEZES GRANTS FOR ARTS

On March 28, the NY Times ran a special section all about museums. Everything from the new New Museum in NYC to Guggenheim expansion in Abu Dhabi, and even included an article about the new Grand Rapids Art Museum - which boasts the first newly constructed museum of its size to obtain LEED certification.

The article discusses the initial funding strategies for the new GRAM, which mentions the

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more than $20 million donated by Peter Wege - who also steered them to build 'green'. The rest of the article, as well as the entire Museum section, continues to focus on development and dollar amounts. The NY Times evens goes as far to provide online readers with an interactive map of museum expansion across the country.

Just a few days after this article ran, Michigan Governor, Jennifer Granholm, announced a moratorium on all state funding for arts and cultural organizations [see: Grand Rapids Press article]. The freeze on this funding will remain for the rest of the fiscal year which ends September 30th. This reactionary move by the state of Michigan is in response to the state's budget crisis, which is undoubtedly related to Michigan's new ranking as the state with highest unemployment rate. Michigan surpassed Alabama and South Carolina, with an employment rate of 6.9% [see: U.S. Dept. of Labor report, March 8, 2007].

What really seems to be the focus here? How is it possible that between $60 and $75 million is being dropped on a building to house art, when people who make art can't even receive a mere fraction of this money? Grand Rapids realizes the wonderful things that Peter Wege has done and continues to do for the city of Grand Rapids, the state of Michigan and the environment - but sustainability goes beyond the architecture of a building. If populations interested in frequenting buildings like the GRAM, or even producing objects to be housed there, can't survive - what is the point in creating something sustainable and long lasting?

LAMB calls for Peter Wege and other philanthropists interested in the arts to actively create an endowment dedicated to arts production in the city of Grand Rapids. Those interested please contact: LAMB.

Posted on April 4, 2007 | Comments (4)
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Crossing the River: An Interview with Eugene Dening

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by Kevin Buist

From February to March 2007, Khora, the Calvin College art gallery at 106 S. Division, presented Crossing the River, a solo show by Eugene Dening. The opening was accompanied by a performance by Peter J. Brant of Ben and Bruno. The collection of drawings and paintings suggested a loose narrative, exploring ideas of coming-of-age, transcendent encounters with nature, and male sexual identity. I recently spoke with Eugene about the show.

Kevin Buist: I want to start by asking you about the show, and how Crossing the River came about.

Eugene Dening: Well, I’ve been interested in ideas of coming-of-age, specifically American coming-of-age films. I’ve been looking at that and noticing a lot of recurring imagery. And so I wanted to take a lot of that imagery and sort of insert myself into that type of story, maybe as a way to look at my own coming of age, or even just to look at that genre of story telling and why we have these recurring images.

KB: Any specific films you were looking at?

ED: I was looking at a lot of them, like Stand By Me, obviously, Undertow, which is a more recent one, Days of Heaven, Mean Creek…there’s a lot of them, there are so many coming of age movies, but I think those are some of the most important ones. Ones where a landscape played an important role.

KB: Yeah, I was just going to say, it seems like with a lot of those films, and with the work, there’s an attention to a wilderness landscape, a forest, where there’s a sojourn into a wild area.

ED: Yeah, and one of the most important images that kept recurring in these movies was a river, as something that people would maybe walk down, or cross, as maybe a metaphor for a journey, or coming of age itself. And a lot of times there was a death in a river at the end of these movies, or a death in a river as a catalyst for more violence or for a journey. Like in Stand By Me there was a death in a river, and in Undertow the pursuer of these kids dies in a river, and in Days of Heaven also, and Mean Creek is another one where someone was killed in a river. Another movie that was really influential was Palindromes. And with a lot of these more recent movies I think that the filmmakers are really intentional about using that sort of imagery, or tapping into that sort of archetype, so I was interested in doing something similar to that.

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Posted on March 15, 2007 | Comments (0)
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Collboration in Music: Hugo Claudin and Jeff Boughner

Editor's note: This piece was submitted to LAMB via the comment section of on the article Ideas of Collbaration. The first section of this article was submitted on Oct. 13, 2006 and the second on March 5, 2007. Hugo Claudin has been an active artist and musician in Grand Rapids since 1989 and continues to be progressive, constantly collaborating with new people. As you will read in the second part of this piece, we would like to remember local musician Jeff Boughner who suddenly passed away in February.


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Impromtu collaboration at Mexicains Sans Frontieres; Jonathan Harnum, Johnny Unicorn and Hugo Claudin


by Hugo Claudin

I have been living in Grand Rapids for 26 years. In that time I have collaborated extensively with other artists in the area, why? Because I wanted to create an artistic community. Since I arrived in Grand Rapids people have asked me why I don't move to Chicago or New York? Why would an artist of your talent stay here where there is no so called "art scene"? And my answer was always "Exactly"...

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Posted on March 5, 2007 | Comments (6)
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REVIEW: “THEORIES OF THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS - A PRINTMAKING EXHIBITION”

by Teresa Zbiciak

Through March 18, you can check out new work from two local printmakers, Scott Travis and Evan Chamberlin. In most prints,the plate is largely forgotten. This is in spite of the inherent beauty that many artists find in the worked copper. The prints currently hanging up at the Division Ave Arts Cooperative [DAAC] subtly allude to the trace of process,being as conceptually important for both artists as the final work, though in different ways and in different contexts.

Scott Travis regards the plate as a sculptural object,and evokes a physicality in the print through an embossing. The emboss allows light to create a compositional boundary between figures in the image,while creating a push and pull between the window effect of the two dimensional with the objecthood of the print itself. There is no frame to give it added preciousness or distinction from its viewers, just a sheet of plexi to help it survive potential moshing or milling about at the DAAC.

The imagery is a combination of human, animal,and plant forms,all drawn from memory, rather than from any references. It is a means of drawing from the inherent perception and memory of these things.The result is somewhat surreal, without the Freudian hang-ups, and reminiscent of the completely immersed illustrations of the 1970’s, without the halucinatory hang-ups. The work itself is meditative for the artist, evidenced by meticulous line work and hatched texture in his dreamy depictions. His major influences are the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, with their heavy emphasis on collective unconsciousness and myths that cross time and cultural boundaries. These ideas have Scott seeking out archetypes and ubiquitous human experiences through his work.

In Evan Chamberlin’s prints, a solitary figure on a ground plane stand to the
fore of a square of mottled and suggestive ink. There is a dichotomy of an immediate and silly iconography, gleaned from Google image searches for self-improvement, with the more indelible square indicative of the printmaker’s process. Evan appreciates the history of a marked up plate, and even uses the “wrong”side of the copper. (Copper comes with a protective piece of plastic on one side that allows for an unblemished surface for the potential artwork.) The soft metal takes on serendipitous etching marks from traveling, in process, between home and studio space. Therein the mottled ink is imbued with markings of a passage of time, upon a shared map with the artist. When he is working with the material and the process,he can stop worrying whether he should be more manly and strong,or more sensitive like a little girl, or more free spirited like a bird. His work is largely about the material and the mixing of the ink – he feels that there is something more truthful in this studio practice than the silly little characters representing the sorts of things that he feels other people expect of him.

Theories of the Collective Unconscious: A Printmaking Exhibitions, is on view at the DAAC until March 18th. Gallery hours are:

Tuesday's 9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.
Friday's 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.

Posted on March 4, 2007 | Comments (0)
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Invited Gentrification: Riga's Andrejsala Project

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Ben Schaafsma

In his article Invisible States: Europe in the Capital Failure, Brian Holmes describes a Europe divided into three divisions; Core Europe, New Europe and Edge Europe; New Europe being the recent accession of 10 new to the EU in 2004 [and two more in 2007], Edge Europe being the non-member bordering periphery and Core being the original members of the EU. This integration of new members in the EU has created a fertile hinterland for transnational corporations, making it difficult to differentiate between citizens of actual nations and those of capitalist entrepreneurial systems. In 2005, the International Artists Studio Program (IASPIS) and the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (EIPCP) collaborated to produce a document for the Frieze art fair – European Cultural Policies 2015: A Report with Scenarios on the Future of Public Funding for Contemporary Art in Europe. This report is more than just a projection - it is an accurate reading of the current climate in much of Europe, specifically ‘New Europe.’ These forecasts are basically exaggerations of the present; increased difficulty in distinguishing the private from the public and the commercial from the non-commercial, focus shifting from the centers to the peripheries, increased Private Public Partnerships [PPPs], and museums and galleries becoming second to the art fair. A visit to Riga, Latvia has led me to empathize with Holmes’ somewhat pessimistic outlook for these new EU nations, who seem to naively believe they can finally establish a post-soviet national identity. These issues, specifically private versus public and those of national identity, are currently unfolding in a collaboration between foreign corporate investors and the national government in Latvia. This project, known as Riga Port City, is laden with contradiction and a closer examination may afford some clarity.

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Posted on February 2, 2007 | Comments (0)
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The Chavista Curator: Chris Gilbert and Now Time Venezuela

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Ben Schaafsma

It is important to consistently push both the boundaries of curatorial practice and consider different ways to navigate both the institutionalized world, as well as those worlds which are developing [or will never develop, but always exist].

There are many different ways to approach this, whether it be like Nato Thompson, who calls for an alternative, or "radical," infrastructure to support work and ideas that may be too tactile for Museum or are counter to institutional frameworks, or Brian Holmes, who leans towards re-thinking and re-working existing structures. Lastly, there is the approach of Chris Gilbert - abandon the institutions and the murderous country that supports them.

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Posted on January 25, 2007 | Comments (1)
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Lyon Street G-Roup Work

By Josh Ippel (with Matt Poole)

"I’ll be back. Don’t worry."

My first memories of art in Grand Rapids were from elementary school field trips to the art museum. I barely remember the small cramped gallery spaces and docents who explained the work of Dutch painters. Those days I was pretty distracted with dreams of becoming a superhero comic book artist. High school tuned me in to a little academic art history but it wasn’t until college that I was exposed to any actual living, breathing art world.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (7)
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Local Social Practice and the Theory of Relational Aesthetics

By Jonathan A. Dawe

The only time I ever remember having an argument with Ryan Thompson, of Dynamite Family, was when I questioned if social practice art, particularly the 100 Meter race between the now-defunct SWIM gallery and Dynamite Studio, is really art. "Why does it matter?" he retorted. I guess I didn't really have an answer. Then again, neither did he. I couldn't tell him why I needed to define it as art (or not art), and he couldn't tell me why I shouldn't. So we reached a frustrating impasse.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (2)
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Ideas of Collaboration and Group Work in Music: Dirty Projectors and Bunkbed Nights

By Ben Schaafsma

Ideas and examples of collaboration are scarce among art historical surveys from the Renaissance to the Modern, or even among contemporary question about what art is. During the 17th and 18th centuries and the emergence of nationhood, countries in Western Europe began to cultivate their own Da Vinci. The idea of the genius of the individual seems to have been forever perpetuated by academic institutions and the art market, even today there are art students holed up in their studios hoping to be the next Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (2)
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Place/Citizenship in the Liberal Arts

By Adam Wolpa

The artist plays a very particular role on the liberal arts campus, to be a visible presence, to be understood as a visionary, and to cultivate a persona that somehow exists outside of the norm. The artist-person points in new directions and is a living model for reinterpreting the world; so, it becomes the work of the artist to travel and exhibit this person, this public self. The artists’ identity then is not only the genesis of plastic production, but in a way, it is the product itself.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (0)
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Interview with Civic Studio’s Paul Wittenbraker

By Ben Schaafsma

This is the first part of what hopefully will grow into a more fleshed out interview between Ben Schaafsma and GVSU's Paul Wittenbraker. We will post the additional responses from Paul as they come in. -Ed.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (0)
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Conflux Conversation with Adam Wolpa

By Ben Schaafsma

In early June, G-RAD’s Ben Schaafsma and George Wietor, plus Calvin College’s Adam Wolpa presented the PLANT! project at Provflux. Last month, Ben and Adam attended Conflux in Brooklyn. Here is their take on those events.

Interview now available in MP3! Download.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (2)
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Hollywood’s Influence on Independent Filmmaking from the Inside

By Dan Swierenga

Independent film is slowly becoming part of the Hollywood machine. Every major studio now has an independent production wing and most successful independent production companies now look to studios for funding and distribution. In the past independent filmmakers were their own bosses and made decisions without recourse, but now everything in Hollywood is subordinated to executives. This may not seem alarming to some, but to people who care about the integrity of filmmaking it should be vital. However, this is not an essay about the changing trends of the business of making movies. If you want to read an article about the death of independent film read the Village Voice. But it provides the backdrop for the topic that I do want to explore. Place and Hollywood specifically plays a very intrinsic part in how art, and film in particular, is made.

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (2)
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BUS TOUR!

By Ben Scott-Brandt

Hello, Grand Rapids Artists, let’s take a trip together!

My father-in-law recently jazzed my imagination when he spilled the beans to us about the vacations he used to take with his fellow cops –summer golfing trips complete with strippers and liquor on an inter-state chartered bus. This was definitely news to me. I couldn’t believe my ears. “I’m related to this guy! This is incredible!” A few days after this discovery, during a completely separate, colorful conversation about Tudor’s Biscuit World, a West Virginian restaurant phenomenon involving deep-fried biscuits, it suddenly hit me–where would I want to go if I was able to charter a bus? What kind of onboard entertainment would I hire? And who would my fellow passengers be?

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Posted on October 12, 2006 | Comments (3)
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A Fond Farewell to the Otterness Sculptures

By Teresa Zbiciak

Head. Tom Otterness.

This weekend of the festivals will be Grand Rapids' last with Tom Otterness’s quirky, cartoonish bronzes. Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park curated this exhibition, of 37 sculptures, only four of which were at the Gardens itself. Calling the show “The Gardens to the Grand,” made clear a primary goal of orienting a public interested in art back to the downtown area.

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Posted on September 10, 2006 | Comments (1)
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